Sunday, March 26, 2006

Programming the Pocket PC the easy way

While we are waiting for Delphi to support CF development officially, I found a year ago a very easy to use Form Designer application for 'programming' applications for Pocket PC's.
GrandaSoft's XSDesigner was at that time able to produce data collection forms (as they call it) in a very easy straight forwarded way which reminded me to the first 'Wows' after seeing Delphi 1 and it's way to deal with databases. :-)
XSDesigner let's you design database forms which save their data in a Pocket Access database (CDB format) . On the PDA you must install, a sort of runtime, XSForms which you can use to load your forms. One thing that was missing at that time was that you could not program button clicks and events.

Their new release (codename Matador), which is at this moment a public beta, supports now scripting languages to program logic in your applications. They support (for now) VBScript and JScript as languages and an event model. The way it is implemented is amazingly simple, but oh so effective.
Just design your form, script your logic, run it with one click on your Pocket PC, and it all works like magic!. The database is generated automaticly and data can be exported to several formats like XML and HTML.

Although, it is limited to database forms, and it is limited, in its way, to work with complex datastructures, I find it extremely powerfull and recommend every one intresting in PDA development to give it try. According to their website there will be a free personal version and a professional edition with more features.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Update Delphi Roadmap

According to Daniel Wischnewski blogpost the Delphi roadmap has been updated. (14-03)
You can find it here.

Obvious changes to the previous roadmap are:
  • Release date of Highlander seems to be pushed to the end of 2006/early 2007 instead of mid 2006
  • ECO IV for VCL.NET suported by Highlander
  • Windows Vista seems to be supported by Highlander.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

BDP, be carefull out there!

When you need database connection in a ASP.NET website you will use, of course, Borland DataProvider, because it gives you a database independent connection.
Use of the BDP components is very straight forwarded, and very much alike the 'standard' ADO.NET components.

However some things of BDP are a bit different, in the detail sence of the word, that it can make you pull your hair from your head sometimes. BDP also covers a lot that is not in ADO.NET so there is plenty to learn also.

Today such an event occured to me (again). A database-driven website that I'm building uses an Microsoft Access database to hold the content(Yes I know, not the best choice) . I use BDP to get the content from the database and on a local machine a Delphi Win32 app is used to maintain the content. So if the content changes the database must be uploaded to the website.
I noticed during developing that the Access .lck file (LockFile) stayed open, and that of course could be a connection which was not closed properly.
But I learned from the Delphi 8 times to close everything you use to get data from the database.
My way of doing this is somewhat like this:

MyConnection := BdpConnection.Create;
MyCommand := BdpCommand.Create(AQuery);
MyCommand.Connection := MyConnection;
MyDataReader := MyCommand.ExecuteDataReader;
while MyDataReader.Read do begin

So believe me I don't leave database connections open lately. Anyway the lock file did not give trouble during the developement.
But now that the website has gone live my Win32 app is not able to upload a changed database because it is used by another process. And that of course is the ASP Worker process, which I can not kill at the ISP's webserver. (Oh Oh)

So after checking all my connections to close(as I told you before I do close them) I found out that it had to do with the Connection Pooling. Of course, that is default set to true and it keeps the connection 'open'. So I turned of the Connection Pooling and everything went fine even the .lck file disappeared immediately after the first refresh.
Now I only need to find a way to free the connection just-before uploading the database. I think that can easily be done following this tutorial at BDN.

So here is my small(and growing?) list of BDP tips:
  1. When using Memo fields don't forget that BDP returns by default 1024 characters as set in the property BlobSize of the connection. So if you have more you won't see it until you increase the blobsize.
  2. Don't get yourself fooled by the Connection Pooling! Connection pooling makes it look like you did not close your connection properly.
  3. Close all that can be closed and you will be fine.

More info on BDP can be found in this BDN article Borland Data Provider 2.5 features.

Bottom line Borland DataProvider rocks, but be carefull out there...

Monday, March 06, 2006

More on "DevCo"

Allan Bauer has some intresting blogposts in his xx Days After spinn off announcement series:

These post have a 'fly on the wall approach' giving some insites in what is going in the Borland meeting rooms. Although it keeps us from real facts it is good to see how everything is going down there.
So far, as far as a fly can tell, it still looks very good for the future of Delphi.

David I offers some additional perspectives on the spinn-off.

After reading all this stuff I (still) feel pretty confident that Delphi will come out as a stronger product than ever before.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

BDS2006 evaluate and a four wheel drive

I am using BDS2006 for two months now. Time to evaluate.
I use BDS2006 Enterprise, mostly for Win32 developement and ASP.NET Development. (Delphi .NET and some C#)

BDS2006 in a nutshell:

  1. BDS2006 is awesome
  2. BDS2006 has some minor bugs or quirks (no showstoppers here!)
  3. Delphi 7 and Delphi 8 made it on the 'Uninstall list'
  4. The future of BDS2006 is...or get myself a fourwheel drive.

1. BDS2006 is awesome
In fact after two months using it, I can not think of going back to Delphi 7. The new editor features are really accelarating my production.

To name a few IDE highlights:

  • Live Templates; Great productivity accelarator!
  • Refactoring; Even more productive. (Still have not used all the refactorings)
  • Together integration; The two way source/UML diagramming gives good insight of my code. Automatic generating documentation is sweet.
  • The IDE is fast (PIV 2,4 GHz 512 Mb); Start uptime is OK! Working is OK!
  • The IDE is stable. (Must confess I manage to crash it sometimes, although a lot fewer then Delphi 7).
  • ASP.NET designer is perfect (Awesome with a capital A compared with the Delphi 8 version that I used. No more HTML disappearing.)
  • ECO, although I am still exploring the thing, it seems to be the way to build .NET applications in the future. (No more plumbing around with ADO.NET, can you imagine that?) Now if I only had the time to explore it even more. There should be a book for this...
  • Having Win32 and .NET application in one project group is cool and even better extremely usefull, no more switching between applications.

2. BDS2006 has some minor bugs and quirks
Before this post is looking like an advertisement for the new DevCo, let's look at some minor bugs, quirks and strange behaviors that I encountered. But beware nothing here is a showstopper.
IMO It is quite natural that a product as complex as BDS2006 has some quirks.

If I say bug I mean that I think it is a bug, so it could be my mistake after all. Still investigating some 'bugs' to put them in QA.
If I say annoying, I mean that it is annoying to me, so not necesserally to you also

  • Annoying: The projectmanager does not open your dfm file if you don't open the pas file first.
  • Annoying: The help is minimal. The help really needs attention.
  • Bug: Sometimes I manage to crash the thing. (When I say 'sometimes' I mean once/twice a day, but not every day) mostly when debugging. (Hard to locate although)
  • Annoying: It is hard to stop coding.
  • Annoying: Can not get the ASP.NET deployment option to work. Grrrr must be me I guess.
  • Annoying/bug: After a day working in a ASP.NET application the amount of memory has grown. (After killing the ASP.NET worker process it comes down)

These are the things that annoy's me the most. OK sometimes there is another this and another that but in general BDS2006 rocks.

3. Delphi 7 and Delphi 8 made it on the 'Uninstall list'
No need to keep Delphi 7 and 8 for downgrade anymore. Put them on the 'Uninstall list' period!

4. The future of BDS2006 is...
And then there was the announcement that Borland is spinning of the IDE business.
First thoughts after the shock:

  • WTF are they doing now????
  • There we go again...
  • Men I just bought me a Enterprise Edition for the first time in my life....

Now after a couple of weeks I think spinning of the IDE business is the best thing to happen to Delphi in ~11 years.

What if the deal succeeds with Borland's intention to get a buyer in the best intrest of Delphi?
If that happens Delphi's future will be brighter than ever before!

What if the deal fails and someone kills Delphi?
I could use Delphi for many years to come, or change to another tool (although I can not think of another one right now, but someone will jump in the gap)
Or I just good start my gardening company with a big, I mean really big 4-wheel drive!

But for now go Delphi!

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